After years of working in plant nurseries, vintage book stores, moving boxes of books and digging gardens everywhere I go, I periodically have lower back pain. When in the grips of it, it feels like eternity, but eventually it lessens. Certain chairs or car seats aggravate it, especially after lifting something heavy, or carrying around my bag of books.
I know the lower back pain is telling me something. It’s my teacher, and it’s saying: “You don’t need to carry such a heavy burden. Lighten your load. Make more trips. What’s your hurry? What are you trying to prove? Relax.” My lower back pain is also teaching me to do Tai Chi, to be conscious of my posture, to walk my dog with a great awareness of my body, to wear good shoes, drink water and appreciate when I feel pain-less or pain-free, or just simply feel good.
I don’t take pain killers for my back, neither over the counter, nor herbal, nor the kind allowed in California, for that matter. I mostly concentrate on lifestyle actions, positive thoughts, breathing, and drinking nervine-adaptogen tea, which helps soothe my nerves and lessen the stress contributing to muscle tension and spasms. Massages and Epsom salt bath soaks can also help quite a bit.
I enjoyed an article from AARP magazine, which looks at holistic treatments for chronic pain, especially Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome and Causalgia. I suggest you read the AARP article. It’s written by someone who developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and healed herself.
CRPS is constant, unremitting, severe pain that worsens instead of improves over time. It can occur after an injury that didn’t heal correctly. Many people living with CRPS experience a significant loss in their quality of life primarily because of the pain, though also because frequently the only treatment suggested for CRPS is pain killers, which are addictive, and for a pain that is constant and unremitting, they are life-robbing.
But what else is there? Some people experience spontaneous remission from the pain. This phenomenon is worth looking into further. Meditation and mindful movements, such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga, Feldenkrais, and the Alexander Technique can help significantly, and perhaps change the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for developing the inappropriate pain response to a past injury.
Even though the chronic pain can be unbearable, it can also be a teacher. Listen to it. What is it telling you to pay attention to? Are you ready to be the student?
PDF of the AARP article is linked with permission from AARP.